Split Verdict in Nw Pa. Priest's Trial over Teen
San Antonio Express-News
January 19, 2012
Jurors in northwestern Pennsylvania have reached a split verdict in the trial of a priest accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old boy.
The McKean County jury deliberated for more than seven hours Wednesday before convicting the Rev. Samuel Slocum of a felony count of concealment of the whereabouts of a child as well as corruption of minors, The Bradford Era (http://bit.ly/A1zcY5) said. But the panel acquitted Slocum of another felony count of interference with the custody of a child and a misdemeanor count of loitering and prowling at night.
Police earlier testified that Slocum, 60, told officers that he bought the boy's attention with expensive gifts because he felt "old and alone" but contended that he acted more like the boy's "Dad" despite flirtatious-sounding messages prosecutors said he sent the boy without his mother's knowledge.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie suspended Slocum from duties at two rural churches after the charges were filed in April, prompting Bishop Donald Trautman to issue a statement saying the charges, which do not include allegations of sexual misconduct, were nonetheless "devastating, if true."
Slocum's attorney, David Ridge, argued that the charges aren't true, not because Slocum didn't do many things he's accused of, but because the priest meant no harm, making him guilty of poor judgment, not crimes.
The boy testified he, his brother and other friends often visited Slocum at the rectory at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church in Lewis Run, where they played pool, watched a big-screen TV and played computer games. The boy acknowledged sneaking away to visit Slocum — who had given him an iPhone and laptop computer so they could keep in touch — and lied to his mother at the priest's urging. She eventually complained to the diocese, which prompted the state police investigation and criminal charges.
The newspaper reported that Slocum attempted to explain his actions in an hours-long audio recording of a state police interview played for the jury on Tuesday.
Slocum acknowledged keeping the recreation room at his residence stocked with teen-friendly gadgets and games, but said he wasn't trying to begin a sexual relationship with any of the boys.
"What were you getting out of the relationship?" Cpl. Robert Klinger asked the priest. "Company," Slocum responded.
"I compromised a lot of values that I hold dear ... to feel like a dad," Slocum told the police at another point. "I think I fell in love with those kids."
On the recording, the police also questioned Slocum about various messages he sent to the boy, who says the Slocum sent him at least one sexually vulgar Facebook message and taught him how to delete the messages in telling the boy, "We have to be very careful." The boy testified receiving other messages from Slocum, including "When am I going to see you again," ''I miss you" and "I'm thinking about you."
When Sgt. Sherman Shadle told Slocum the relationship sounded more like "girlfriend and boyfriend," Slocum objected, saying, "I wanted security more than anything. I wanted someone there that I didn't have to worry about going away."
Elsewhere in the interview, Slocum told the police the priesthood was lonelier than he anticipated.
"When I decided to be a priest I had no idea what the consequences would be. No companionship," Slocum said. "You have no idea what it's like to be old and alone."
Slocum also acknowledged that he "bought" friendships with the 15-year-old and the other teens, and told the police he realized how that must look to outsiders.
"I behaved badly," Slocum said. "There's some things I don't have an explanation for. I'm not stupid. I can see what this looks like. It looks really bad."